Comprised of husband and wife team John and Lisa McLaggan, the debut release from Saint John folk duo Tomato/Tomato is arguably one of the finest albums to emerge from New Brunswick this year.
Rooted in the world of traditional country and folk music but with definite inflections of jazz with a touch of quirkiness, the songs featured on So It Goes eschew big production values in favour of a grounded, simplistic approach to music.
Performing at Moncton’s Plan b Lounge next Thursday evening, John says that their falling into the world of folk-oriented music unfolded rather naturally.
“Both Lisa and I are jazz musicians but have always loved different kinds of music. But because my primary instrument was the saxophone, it wasn’t exactly conducive to pursuing folk music,” John says.
John met his future wife Lisa when they were each enrolled at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music. A native of Chicago, Lisa had earned her Opera degree before moving into the world of jazz music.
And while jazz music kept Lisa and John happily occupied for many years, it was an invite from Saint John’s Cherrybrook Zoo that formally started them down the successful path they travel today.
“Lisa and I had been hired by the Cherrybrook Zoo to play a Christmas In July celebration. They were looking for a Dixieland style of music that we would play while leading a parade of kids around the zoo singing Christmas songs,” John laughs. “It was digging out my guitar for that event which in turn opened up a lot of styles of music which we could never really access before.”
Following their somewhat unlikely performance at the Cherrybrook Zoo, the duo began crafting folk-spirited songs in their living room. Before long, the duo began performing a dedicated set of their folk songs when playing jazz shows in the Saint John area.
“The idea of doing a full album ended up growing from trying a bunch of different musical styles on for size,” John says. “We knew that we wanted to be a folk-type of band but hadn’t focused on exactly what we were going to sound like. We ended up going with what felt right which ended up being the ‘old-timey’ sound. Once Lisa introduced her washboard into the sound, that basically solidified what it was we were trying to do.”
Sensing they were onto something special, John says they didn’t waste time when it came to recording So It Goes. In fact, only three months passed from the time they recorded their first note to the time the finished master recording product was ready to be pressed.
While some artists draw out the making of their records over many months or, in some cases years, John believes a recording should serve as a documentation of a specific time in their career.
“Rather than drawing out the recording process, I think it is important for any group to come to terms with the fact that the record you are making is just a glimpse of what you sound like at that moment in time. You really just have to say that this is the moment you are solidifying the album and move on with your career. If you are still singing those songs a year down the road, hopefully they will be even better then when you recorded them.”
What: Tomato/Tomato with Alex Thorne
When: Thursday Oct. 30, 9:00 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton